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1. The divine appointment of Barnabas and Saul 12:25-13:3
Luke recorded these verses to set the stage for the account of Barnabas and Saul’s first missionary journey that follows.
"The world ministry which thus began was destined to change the history of Europe and the world." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 102.]
There were five prominent prophets and teachers in the Antioch church at this time. The Greek construction suggests that Barnabas, Simeon, and Lucius were prophets (forthtellers and perhaps foretellers), and Manaen and Saul were teachers (Scripture expositors). The particle te occurs before Barnabas and before Manaen in this list dividing the five men into two groups.
"A teacher’s ministry would involve a less-spontaneous declaration and preaching than that of the prophets, including instruction and the passing on to others of the received apostolic teaching (. . . 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11). This was how the church taught its doctrine before the use of the books that later became a part of the NT." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 439.]
Barnabas (cf. Acts 4:36-37; Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22-30) seems to have been the leader among the prophets and teachers. The priority of his name in this list, as well as other references to his character qualities, suggests this. Simeon is a Jewish name, but this man’s nickname or family name, Niger, is Roman and implies that he was dark skinned, possibly from Africa. The Latin word niger means black. Some people think this Simeon was Simon of Cyrene (in North Africa), who carried Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:26). There is not enough information to prove or to disprove this theory. Lucius was a common Roman name; Luke was his Greek name. He was from North Africa (cf. Acts 11:20). It seems unlikely that he was the Luke who wrote this book. Since Luke did not even identify himself by name as a member of Paul’s entourage, it is improbable that he would have recorded his own name here. Some scholars believe that this Luke was the writer, however. [Note: E.g., John Wenham, "The Identification of Luke," Evangelical Quarterly 63:1 (1991):32-38.] Herod the tetrarch refers to Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist and tried Jesus (Mark 6:14-19; Luke 13:31-33; Luke 23:7-12). Saul was evidently the newcomer (cf. Acts 7:58 to Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1-30; Acts 11:25-30). This list of leaders shows that the church in Antioch was cosmopolitan and that God had gifted it with several speakers who exhorted and taught the believers.
"There in that little band there is exemplified the unifying influence of Christianity. Men from many lands and many backgrounds had discovered the secret of ’togetherness’ because they had discovered the secret of Christ." [Note: Barclay, p. 105.]
It was while these men were serving that God redirected them. Many have observed that it is easier to direct a ship that is in motion than one that is standing still. Similarly God often uses His servants who are already serving Him as they have opportunity rather than those who are not serving Him but just sitting by idly waiting for direction. Notice also that the ministry of these men, while to the church, was primarily to the Lord (cf. Colossians 3:24). Fasting in this context undoubtedly involved going without food temporarily to give attention to spiritual matters of greater importance than eating.
"Pious Jews of the time fasted twice each week, and early Christians may have continued the custom." [Note: Kent, p. 108.]
The Holy Spirit probably revealed His "call" through one or more of these prophets (cf. Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19; Acts 13:4). How He did it was less important to Luke than that He did it (cf. Acts 13:4). God leads His people though a variety of means that His disciples who are walking with Him can identify as His leading. If Luke had revealed just how the Spirit gave this "missionary call," every missionary candidate that followed might expect exactly the same type of leading. One commentator speculated as follows.
". . . this would seem to suggest that at a service of divine worship one of the prophets was moved by the Spirit to propose the mission of Paul and Barnabas." [Note: Neil, p. 154. See George W. Murray, "Paul’s Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:618 (April-June 1998):189-200.]
"They" probably refers to the entire congregation together with its leaders (cf. Acts 14:27; Acts 15:2). The other church leaders did several things for Barnabas and Saul. They fasted and prayed, presumably for God’s blessing on them. They probably fasted as they prayed indicating the priority they placed on seeking God’s blessing in prayer. They also laid their hands on them, evidently not to bestow a spiritual power but to identify with and encourage them (cf. Acts 9:17). Then they released them from their duties in Antioch so they could depart. This was a commissioning for a particular work, not ordination to lifetime service. [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 216.]
"In commissioning Barnabas and Saul by the imposition of hands, the other office-bearers invest them with authority to act on behalf of the Christian community at Antioch, and symbolically identify the whole congregation with their enterprise." [Note: Neil, p. 154.]
"This short paragraph [Acts 13:1-3] marks a major departure in Luke’s story. Up to this point, contacts with Gentiles (one might almost say, missionary activity in general) have been almost fortuitous [happening by chance]. Philip was despatched along an unusual road not knowing that he would encounter an Ethiopian eunuch reading Scripture; Peter was surprised by the gift of the Holy Spirit to an uncircumcised and unbaptized Gentile; the missionaries to Antioch did not set out with the intention of evangelizing Gentiles. Here, however, though the initiative is still ascribed to the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2), an extensive evangelistic journey into territory in no sense properly Jewish (though there was a Jewish element in the population, as there was in most parts of the Empire) is deliberately planned, and two associates of the local church are commissioned to execute it." [Note: Barrett, pp. 598-99.]
Luke carefully noted that the person ultimately responsible for the venture that followed was the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:1-2). This was another of God’s initiatives in building His church. Barnabas and Saul departed from the port of Antioch, Seleucia, located about 15 miles to the west near where the Orontes River flowed into the Mediterranean Sea. The island of Cyprus (Kittim, Genesis 10:4; et al.) was Barnabas’ homeland (Acts 4:36). [Note: See Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, "On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul," Bible Review 1:2 (Summer 1985):38-47, for some very interesting insights into travel conditions over land and water in the first century Roman world.]
"Cyprus was an island of great importance from very early times, being situated on the shipping lanes between Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. In 57 B.C. it was annexed by Rome from Egypt and in 55 B.C. incorporated into the province of Cilicia. In 27 B.C. it became a separate province governed on behalf of the emperor Augustus by an imperial legate. In 22 B.C. Augustus relinquished its control to the senate, and, like other senatorial provinces, it was administered by a proconsul." [Note: Longenecker, p. 419.]
2. The mission to Cyprus 13:4-12
Luke recorded the events of Paul’s first missionary journey to document the extension of the church into new territory and to illustrate the principles and methods by which the church grew. He also did so to show God’s supernatural blessing on the witness of Barnabas and Saul.
". . . the account of Paul’s ministry has two parts: his journeys (Acts 11-20) and his trials (Acts 21-28)." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 151.]
Peter had encountered Simon, a sorcerer, when the Jerusalem church initiated its first major outreach in Samaria (Acts 8:9-24). Similarly Barnabas and Saul ran into Bar-Jesus, a false prophet and sorcerer, when the Antioch church conducted its first major outreach to Gentiles. Luke undoubtedly wanted his readers to note the parallel and to draw the conclusion that God was behind the second outreach to Gentiles as He had been behind the first one to Samaritans.
Salamis was the largest town in eastern Cyprus, about 60 miles from Seleucia. It lay on the coast, and there were enough Jews there to warrant more than one synagogue. Salamis’ population was mainly Greek, but many Jews lived there as well. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 13:10:4.] Barnabas and Saul habitually visited the Jewish synagogues when they preached the gospel. They undoubtedly did so because that was where the people who were God-fearers and anticipators of the Messiah assembled, both Jews and Gentiles. Of course, this was not the first time the Christian gospel had come to Cyprus, but the Christians had only evangelized Jews earlier (cf. Acts 11:19). John Mark probably provided assistance in many ways. Timothy served in a similar capacity when Paul and Silas left Lystra on Paul’s second missionary journey (cf. Acts 16:1-3). [Note: See the map of Paul’s first missionary journey in Longenecker, p. 248, or in Toussaint, "Acts," p. 386.]
Barnabas and Saul travelled west across Cyprus coming eventually to Paphos, the provincial capital of the island. Paphos was 90 miles west of Salamis and lay on the western coast of Cyprus. Evidently word reached Sergius Paulus of the missionaries’ preaching. Since he was an intelligent man (Gr. aner syneton, an understanding or sagacious man, cf. Acts 13:12), he ordered them to meet with him so he could hear their message personally.
"In the Greek world it was the custom for philosophers, rhetoricians, or religious propagandists, to travel about from city to city and give public orations. By this means they often secured permanent professorships. So when Sergius Paulus heard of Barnabas and Saul, he took them for similar professors, and having an interest in these matters he summoned them to give a declamation before his court." [Note: Rackham, p. 200. See Longenecker, p. 419, for personal background on Lucius Sergius Paulus.]
He was a "proconsul," the highest Roman government official on the island who was there by appointment of Rome’s senate. [Note: See Bruce, "Chronological Questions . . .," pp. 279-80.] In contrast, procurators were appointed by the emperor. Procurators mentioned in the New Testament were Pontius Pilate, Antonius Felix, and Porcius Festus. Evidently Bar-Jesus (lit. Son of a Savior) was a Jewish false prophet in the sense that he claimed to be a prophet of God but was not. He was only a magician who may have had some Satanic power (cf. Acts 8:9). The Mosaic Law forbade Jews from practicing magic (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). "Elymas" (wise) seems to have been a nickname. It describes a "sorcerer," "magician," or "fortune-teller" (Gr. magos, cf. Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:7; Matthew 2:16). He may have opposed the missionaries because they brought the true message of God. Furthermore he may have felt that if Sergius Paulus believed the gospel his relationship to the proconsul would suffer.
"It was not usual for such a character to be attached to the household of a Roman dignitary." [Note: Neil, p. 155.]
Roman officials were notoriously superstitious.
Luke now introduced Saul’s Greek name Paul, by which he referred to him hereafter in Acts. The reason for Luke’s change at this point seems to be that here Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles really began (cf. Acts 22:21). "Paul" means "little," perhaps an allusion to his physical stature, and obviously rhymes with his Jewish name "Saul" (lit. asked). "Paul" may have been a cognomen (nickname). Paul’s first and family Roman names appear nowhere in Scripture. [Note: Longenecker, p. 420.]
"Both names, Saul and Paul, were probably given him by his parents, in accordance with Jewish custom, which still prevails, of giving a child two names, one religious and one secular." [Note: Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, p. 341.]
Note Luke’s reference to Paul’s being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have seen that Spirit filling marked the early believers (Acts 13:9; Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55; Acts 9:17). Paul was about to announce a divine miracle designed to frustrate Satan’s work in hindering the progress of the gospel (cf. Acts 8:9-23; Acts 16:16-18; Acts 19:13-17). A true prophet of the Lord was getting ready to pronounce a curse on a false prophet (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:9-27). This fresh filling (Gr. plestheis, an aorist participle) empowered him for the task.
Instead of being full of wisdom, Paul accused Elymas of being full of deceit and a fraud. Instead of being the son of a savior or the follower of Jesus, Bar-Jesus was a son of the devil. Instead of being the promoter of righteousness, this magician was making the straight way of the Lord crooked. This is the second of four incidents involving victory over demonic powers in Acts (cf. Acts 8:9-23; Acts 16:16-18; Acts 19:13-17).
Paul’s stern words recall Peter’s as he dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, and Simon the sorcerer (Acts 5:3-4; Acts 5:9; Acts 8:20-23). Perhaps Paul hoped that when God darkened Elymas’ physical eyesight He might restore his spiritual eyesight, as had been his own experience (ch. 9).
This show of superior power convinced Sergius Paulus of the truth of Paul’s gospel, and he believed it. Notice again that belief is all that was necessary for his salvation (cf. Acts 14:1; Acts 17:34; Acts 19:18). It was Paul’s teaching concerning the Lord that Sergius Paulus believed. There is some extrabiblical evidence that Sergius Paulus’ daughter and other descendants also became Christians. [Note: See William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, pp. 150-72.]
"This blinding of the false prophet opened the eyes of Sergius Paulus." [Note: W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, p. 120.]
The blinding of Elymas shows that Paul possessed the power of binding that God had also given to Peter (cf. Matthew 16:19). God validated Paul’s message by granting a miracle. This was especially helpful in evangelism before the completion of the New Testament. Here a Roman Gentile responded to the gospel whereas a Jew did not.
This incident is significant in the unfolding of Luke’s purpose because at Paphos Paul assumed the leadership among the missionaries (cf. Acts 13:13). The mission of the church also became more Gentile oriented. Jewish response continued to be rejection, symbolized by Elymas’ blindness (cf. Acts 28:26-27). Furthermore, this was the first appearance of Christianity before Roman aristocracy and high authority, a new benchmark for the advance of the mission. Paul’s conflict with Elymas is also reminiscent of others in the Old Testament in which prophets with rival messages made presentations to kings and people (cf. 1 Kings 22; Jeremiah 28-29).
"The conversion of Sergius Paulus was, in fact, a turning point in Paul’s whole ministry and inaugurated a new policy in the mission to Gentiles-viz., the legitimacy of a direct approach to and full acceptance of Gentiles apart from any distinctive Jewish stance. This is what Luke clearly sets forth as the great innovative development of this first missionary journey (Acts 14:27; Acts 15:3). Earlier Cornelius had been converted apart from any prior commitment to Judaism, and the Jerusalem church had accepted his conversion to Christ. But the Jerusalem church never took Cornelius’s conversion as a precedent for the Christian mission and apparently preferred not to dwell on its ramifications. However, Paul, whose mandate was to Gentiles, saw in the conversion of Sergius Paulus further aspects of what a mission to Gentiles involved and was prepared to take this conversion as a precedent fraught with far-reaching implications for his ministry. It is significant that from this point on Luke always calls the apostle by his Greek name Paul and, except for Acts 14:14; Acts 15:12; and Acts 15:25 (situations where Barnabas was more prominent), always emphasizes his leadership by listing him first when naming the missioners. For after this, it was Paul’s insight that set the tone for the church’s outreach to the Gentile world." [Note: Longenecker, pp. 420-21.]
Arrival in Pamphylia 13:13
Pamphylia was a Roman province that lay west of the kingdom of Antiochus, which was west of Cilicia, Paul’s home province. Perga (modern Perge) stood 12 miles inland from the major seaport of Attalia (modern Antalya, cf. Acts 14:25-26), but it had an inland harbor on the Cestrus River. In Perga, John Mark left Paul and Barnabas to return to Jerusalem. Paul did not approve of his decision (Acts 15:38), but Luke did not record Mark’s motives. The commentators have deduced several reasons including homesickness (cf. Acts 12:12), fear of illness (cf. Galatians 4:13), and fear of danger in the Taurus Mountains north of Perga. Paul purposed to cross these mountains to get to Antioch of Pisidia. Others have cited the changes that were taking place in the mission’s leadership from Barnabas to Paul. Another probable explanation is disagreement over the validity of a direct approach to and full acceptance of Gentiles. John Mark, of course, had strong ties to the Jerusalem church and could well have resisted this approach as so many other Jews did.
3. The mission to Asia Minor 13:13-14:21a
Having evangelized Barnabas’ homeland the missionaries next moved into southern Asia Minor (modern western Turkey).
"The contact with Sergius Paulus is the key to the subsequent ininerary of the first missionary journey. From Cyprus Paul and Barnabas struck east to the newly founded colony of Pisiddian Antioch, miles away from any Cypriot’s normal route. Modern scholars have invoked Paul’s wish to reach the uplands of Asia and recover from a passing sickness. . . . We know, however, that the family of the Sergii Pauli had a prominent connection with Pisidian Antioch . . . the Sergii Pauli’s local influence was linked with their ownership of a great estate nearby in central Anatolia: it is an old and apt guess that these connections go back to the time of Paul’s governor. They explain very neatly why Paul and Barnabas left the governor’s presence and headed straight for distant Pisidian Antioch. He directed them to the area where his family had land, power and influence. The author of Acts saw only the impulse of the Holy Spirit, but Christianity entered Roman Asia on advice from the highest society." [Note: R. L. Fox, Pagans and Christians, pp. 293-94.]
The visit to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia 13:14-15
Paul and Barnabas attended the Sabbath service in a local synagogue.
"In the Hellenistic and Roman periods Asia Minor had a substantial Jewish population. . . .
"The massive influx of a Jewish population into Asia Minor took place at the end of the third century BC, when Antiochus III settled two thousand Jewish families from Mesopotamia and Babylonia in Lydia and Phrygia, in order to maintain the security of his hold over this region." [Note: Levinskaya, p. 138.]
Normally the synagogue service began with the Shema ("Hear, O Israel, . . .") and the Shemoneh Esreh (a liturgy of benedictions, blessings, and prayers). Then leaders would read two passages from the Old Testament aloud, one from the Mosaic Law and a related section from the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible. Then some competent person whom the synagogue rulers designated would give an address. The service would conclude with a benediction. On this occasion the synagogue leaders, who were local Jewish laymen, invited Paul and Barnabas to give an address if they had some encouraging word to share.
Paul initiated his typical pattern of ministry in Antioch of Pisidia. In every town with a sizable Jewish population that he visited, except Athens, according to Luke, the apostle first preached in the synagogue to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. When the Jews refused to listen further, he then went to Gentiles directly with the gospel. Evidently Paul went to the synagogues first because his audience there had a theological background that made it easier for them to understand and believe the gospel.
"There was, of course, a practical matter involved. If they had begun evangelizing among gentiles first, the synagogue would have been closed to them." [Note: Kent, p. 115.]
Ministry in Antioch of Pisidia 13:14-52
Paul and Barnabas proceeded north from the coast about 100 miles to Antioch of Pisidia. The road took them from sea level to 3,600 feet elevation through bandit-infested country. [Note: Blaiklock, p. 105.] They arrived on a lake-filled plateau. Paul later wrote to the Galatians that he had preached the gospel to them at first because of a weakness of the flesh (Galatians 4:13). This seems to indicate that Paul was not in good health when he ministered in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Many commentators followed the theory of William Ramsay, who argued that Paul suffered from malaria, which he contracted on the lowlands of Perga. [Note: William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 93.] Antioch of Pisidia was a Roman colony, as were Lystra, Troas, Philippi, and Corinth. Roman colonies stood at strategic places in the empire along frequently travelled roads. As such, Antioch would have been a good place to plant a church. The Via Sebaste, the Roman road that ran from Ephesus to the Euphrates River, passed through this Antioch.
"Antioch was the most important city of southern Galatia and included within its population a rich amalgam of Greek, Roman, Oriental, and Phrygian traditions. Acts tells us that it also had a sizeable Jewish population." [Note: Longenecker, pp. 422-23.]
"In bringing the gospel to Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were planting Christianity in the communication nerve center and heart of Asia Minor." [Note: Merrill F. Unger, "Pisidian Antioch and Gospel Penetration of the Greek World," Bibliotheca Sacra 118:469 (January-March 1961):48.]
People referred to this town as Pisidian Antioch (Antioch of Pisidia) because it was close to the geographical region of Pisidia, though its site was in the geographical region of Phrygia. They called it Antioch of Pisidia to distinguish it from another Antioch in Phrygia.
"It was founded by Seleucus I Nicator about 281 B.C. as one of the sixteen cities he named in honor of either his father or his son, both of whom bore the name Antiochus." [Note: Longenecker, p. 422.]
This town was in the Roman province of Galatia and was the chief military and political center in the southern part of the Galatian province. [Note: See Ramsay, St. Paul . . ., p. 92.] Luke recorded that the missionaries had contact with seven different types of people here: synagogue officials, Jews, proselytes, God-fearers, devout women of high standing, Gentiles, and leading men of the city. They reached all levels of society.
Paul stood up and motioned with his hand, both gestures typical of synagogue exhortations. He addressed his Jewish hearers as "Men of Israel," and he called the Gentile God-fearers who were present "you who fear God."
Paul’s synagogue sermon in Antioch of Pisidia 13:16-41
Luke recorded three of Paul’s evangelistic messages to unbelievers: here in Pisidian Antioch, in Lystra (Acts 14:15-17), and in Athens (Acts 17:22-31). This is the longest of the three, though Luke quite certainly condensed all of them. This one takes most people less than a minute to read.
"He [Paul] may have written out notes of this sermon afterwards for Luke. The keynotes of Paul’s theology as found in his Epistles appear in this sermon." [Note: Robertson, 3:187.]
This sermon is very similar to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-40 and Stephen’s in Acts 7:2-53. [Note: For comparison with two other important initiation speeches, namely, Jesus’ in Luke 4:18-21 and Peter’s in Acts 2, see Tannehill, 2:160-62; or Witherington, p. 408. For comparison of this address with Stephen’s, see Rackham, pp. 208-9.] It contains three parts marked off by three occurrences of direct address: preparation for the coming of Messiah (Acts 13:16-25), the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection of Messiah (Acts 13:26-37), and the application and appeal (Acts 13:38-41). [Note: Toussiant, "Acts," p. 389.]
"The variety in these missionary sermons and the speeches of Christians on trial before Jewish and Roman bodies is no doubt meant to illustrate the different ways in which the gospel was presented to different groups of people, Jews and Greeks, cultured and uncultured, and it is hard to resist the impression that the sermons are presented as models for Luke’s readers to use in their own evangelism." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 33.]
Luke probably recorded this address to help us see how Paul preached to people who knew the Hebrew Scriptures. [Note: See also David A. deSilva, "Paul’s Sermon in Antioch of Pisidia," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):32-49.]
"Speeches in Acts are differentiated less with reference to the speakers than with reference to the audience." [Note: Barrett, p. 623.]
Since this speech is carefully crafted to be persuasive to a Diaspora Jewish audience, it not only has the form of deliberative rhetoric but it reflects the patterns of early Jewish augumentation." [Note: Witherington, p. 408.]
Paul first reviewed God’s preparation for Israel’s redemption from Abraham through David (cf. Acts 7:2-50; Matthew 1:2-17). He highlighted five important points that the Jews often stressed in their confessions. God was the God of the Israelites (Acts 13:17). God chose the patriarchs (Acts 13:17). God created the Israelite nation, redeemed His people out of Egypt, and patiently led them through the wilderness (Acts 13:17-18). He then gave them Canaan as an inheritance (Acts 13:19). The "about" 450 years mentioned (Acts 13:19) probably refer to Israel’s 400 years in Egypt, the 40 years in the wilderness, and the 10 years of conquest and settlement in the Promised Land (1845-1395 B.C.; cf. Acts 7:6). [Note: See the diagram "References to Israel’s Years in Egypt" at my notes on 7:2-8. For a different explanation based on a different textual reading, see Eugene H. Merrill, "Paul’s Use of ’About 450 Years’ in Acts 13:20," Bibliotheca Sacra 138:551 (July-September 1981):246-57.] Finally God gave the Israelites faithful King David after a succession of lesser leaders (Acts 13:20-22). It was particularly David’s heart for God resulting in his carrying out God’s will that Paul stressed (Acts 13:22). These qualities marked David’s successor, Jesus Christ, too.
Paul then announced that the promised Messiah had come and that He was Jesus. The promise in view seems to be the one in Isaiah 11:1-16, which speaks of Messiah coming from David’s descendants.
Most of the Jews of the dispersion knew of John the Baptist’s ministry. Often the early Christian preachers began the message of Jesus with John the Baptist, who announced and prepared for His coming (cf. Mark 1:2-8). John clarified that he was not the Messiah but was His forerunner (Luke 3:15-18).
"It may be that followers of John the Baptist, believing him to have been the Messiah, and constituting a sect which had spread outwards from Palestine, presented more of a problem to Christian missionaries about this time than the NT evidence would suggest; a hint of this is given in Acts 19:3-5. If such were the case, it would account for Paul’s strong emphasis here on John’s role as merely the herald of the Messiah." [Note: Neil, pp. 158-59.]
Before proceeding to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, Paul paused to address his hearers by groups again (cf. Acts 13:16) and to personalize the gospel message to them. He noted that the gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles.
He then proceeded to narrate the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). He pointed out that all these experiences were fulfillments of Old Testament predictions, which most of the Jews living in Jerusalem did not recognize at the time (Acts 13:27; Acts 13:29). He also noted Jesus’ innocence of the charges brought against Him (Acts 13:28). Paul stressed Jesus’ resurrection particularly as God’s vindication of Him (Acts 13:30), and he highlighted the apostles’ personal witness of His resurrection (Acts 13:31; cf. Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39-41). God had vindicated and prepared Him to reign by raising Him from the dead. This is the fifth time in Acts that the apostles claimed to be witnesses of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (cf. Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39-41; Acts 13:30-31). Paul’s point was that David’s promised heir, the Messiah, had come (cf. Acts 13:33).
Paul supported the fulfillment of this promise by quoting three Old Testament Messianic passages: Psalms 2:7 (Acts 13:33), Isaiah 55:3 (Acts 13:34), and Psalms 16:10 (Acts 13:35; cf. Acts 2:27). These Old Testament texts all found fulfillment in the raising up of Jesus. However, Paul used "raised up" in two different senses in this speech. In Acts 13:33; Acts 13:37 he spoke of God raising up Jesus as the promised Messiah. Psalms 2:7 refers to God similarly raising up David as Israel’s king. Second, Paul spoke in Acts 13:30; Acts 13:34 of God raising up Jesus from the dead.
"The ’virgin tomb’ (John 19:41) was like a ’womb’ that gave birth to Jesus Christ in resurrection glory." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:458.]
Jesus was always the Son of God ontologically [with regard to His being], but God declared Him to be His Son when He raised Him from the dead and made Him the Davidic ruler (Psalms 2:7). Similarly God had declared David His son when He made David ruler over Israel (cf. 2 Samuel 7:10-14).
Progressive dispensationalists believe that Paul meant that Jesus is now ruling over David’s kingdom. [Note: See Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism, p. 177; and Saucy, The Case . . ., p. 68. ] Though there are connections with Jesus’ enthronement as the Davidic King in these Old Testament passages, it seems clear from Paul’s emphasis on God raising up Jesus in Acts 13:30-37 that he was using these passages to show that Jesus’ resurrection proved that He is the Davidic King, not that He has begun to reign as the Davidic King. Here Paul said nothing explicitly about Jesus’ reigning as Israel’s King, but he said much about Jesus’ being Israel’s King.
"Paul did not say Jesus is now ruling over the kingdom of David, but only that the Son of David is now in a position to rule forever when He returns." [Note: Rogers, "The Davidic . . . Acts-Revelation," p. 75.]
Since Jesus rose from the dead, God can give people the blessings that He promised would come through David (Acts 13:34; Isaiah 55:3; cf. Acts 2:25-32). The blessings mentioned in this Old Testament passage are those of the New Covenant. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead and did not undergo decay proves that He is the Holy One of whom David spoke in Psalms 16:10 (Acts 13:35).
Paul’s argument was that God had raised up David and had promised a Savior from his posterity. God had fulfilled that promise by raising up Jesus as the Messiah, whom He identified as His Son by raising Him from the dead. [Note: Cf. Neil, p. 159.]
Paul ended his historical review with an exhortation and appeal to his readers (cf. Acts 13:15). He now addressed his two types of hearers collectively as "men brethren" (Acts 13:38, Gr. andres adelphoi). When it comes to responding to the gospel, all people, Jews and Gentiles, are on the same level. Through Jesus, Paul asserted, everyone who believes (the only condition) has forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38; Acts 10:43) and justification (God’s judicial declaration of righteousness, cf. Deuteronomy 25:1). Justification could not come through the Mosaic Law, he reminded his hearers. This is the only reference in Acts to justification by faith in Jesus.
"What we have in the application of Paul’s message (despite its cumbersome expression in its précis form) are his distinctive themes of ’forgiveness of sins,’ ’justification,’ and ’faith,’ which resound in this first address ascribed to him in Acts just as they do throughout his extant letters." [Note: Longenecker, p. 427.]
Paul later developed the truth of justification and forgiveness apart from the Mosaic Law in his epistle to the Galatians. He probably wrote Galatians to the same people he spoke to here shortly after he completed this first missionary journey. Later he set forth these themes more fully in his epistle to the Romans. These verses summarize the arguments of Galatians and Romans in one sentence.
Paul concluded by applying Habakkuk’s warning to all who reject the good news about Jesus Christ. God’s working in their day (i.e., providing the Messiah) was something they could not afford to disbelieve and scoff at or they would perish.
"Habakkuk 1:5, which Paul quoted here, refers to an invasion of Judah by a Gentile nation that would be used as God’s disciplinary instrument to punish Judah for her disobedience. Paul evidently saw his generation in Israel under a similar disciplinary judgment. Paul’s message, like Peter’s [on the day of Pentecost] was delivered to a generation in Israel under the judgment Christ had predicted [in Luke 21:24, i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70]." [Note: Pentecost, "The Apostles’ . . .," p. 140.]
In a larger sense, of course, unbelieving scoffers perish eternally for rejecting the gospel.
"Parallel with the positive theme of the preparation for the coming of the Christ through Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David and John the Baptist, he [Paul] has interwoven an admonitory reminder of those who have failed to recognize the divine plan and purpose-the Canaanites, Saul, the Jerusalem Jews and Pilate. Now he presents the Dispersion Jews with a similar challenge to accept or refuse the Gospel message." [Note: Neil, p. 160.]
Paul’s message created great interest in the hearts of many people who listened to him. Paul possessed great powers of persuasion (cf. Acts 18:4; Acts 19:8; Acts 19:26; Acts 26:28; Acts 28:23; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 1:10), but the Holy Spirit was at work too. Paul and Barnabas continued clarifying the gospel for their inquirers during the following week. The English translators supplied "Paul and Barnabas" (NASB, NIV) or "Jews" (AV) and "the people" (NASB, NIV) or "Gentiles" (AV) for the third person plural that appears in the best ancient Greek manuscripts. Here "the grace of God" refers to the sphere of life into which one enters by believing in Jesus Christ.
The consequences of Paul’s message 13:42-52
One reason for the unsaved Jews’ antagonism was the large crowd that Paul’s message attracted. Jealousy, rather than the Holy Spirit, filled and controlled these unbelieving Jews and again led to persecution (cf. Acts 5:17).
"Knowing (as we unfortunately do) how pious Christian pew-holders can manifest quite un-Christian indignation when they arrive at church on a Sunday morning to find their places occupied by rank outsiders who have come to hear a popular visiting preacher, we can readily appreciate the annoyance of the Jewish community at finding their synagogue practically taken over by a Gentile congregation on this occasion." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 281.]
"The majority of the Jews, including undoubtedly the leaders of the Jewish community, were apparently unwilling to countenance a salvation as open to Gentiles as it was to Jews." [Note: Longenecker, p. 429. Cf. Blaiklock, p. 106.]
Another reason for the Jews’ hostile reaction was that, like other Jews elsewhere, most of the Jews in Antioch did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They were "blaspheming" by saying that He was not.
As the apostles in Jerusalem had done, Paul and Barnabas responded to the opposition with bold words (cf. Acts 4:29). It was necessary for the gospel to go to the Jews before the Gentiles not only because Jewish acceptance of Jesus is a prerequisite to the messianic kingdom (cf. Acts 3:26). It was also necessary because Jesus was the Messiah whom God had promised to deliver the Jews. The gospel was good news to the Jews in a larger sense than it was to the Gentiles. Paul almost always preached the gospel to the Jews first in the towns he visited (cf. Acts 13:50-51; Acts 14:2-6; Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13-15; Acts 18:6; Acts 19:8-9; Acts 28:23-28; Romans 1:16). The Jews’ rejection of the gospel led him to offer it next to the Gentiles.
"Now for the first time Dispersion Jews follow the example of their Jerusalem counterparts in rejecting Christ, and for the first time Paul publicly announces his intention of turning his back on them and concentrating on the purely Gentile mission." [Note: Neil, p. 160. Cf. 18:5-6; and 28:25-28.]
By rejecting Jesus these Jews were really, though not consciously, judging themselves unworthy of salvation. In irony Paul said those who rejected the gospel were really judging themselves to be unworthy of eternal life (i.e., salvation and it benefits). [Note: Witherington, p. 415.] Usually most of the Jews who heard Paul’s preaching rejected it and only a few believed, but many Gentiles accepted the gospel.
Paul quoted the Isaiah commission because he was addressing Jews. Isaiah explained their duty. He and Barnabas were only carrying out God’s will. The servant of the Lord is the person addressed in Isaiah 49:6. Jesus Christ, the perfect Servant of the Lord, was the ultimate light to the Gentiles who would bring salvation to the end of the earth (cf. Luke 2:28-32). As Israel and Christ had been lights to the Gentiles (Genesis 46:3; Luke 2:29-32), so now were Paul and Barnabas (cf. Matthew 5:14-16). Not only had the Jews received a commission to reach out to the Gentiles with blessing (Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 49:6), but so had Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Luke again stressed that the results of the preaching of the gospel were due to God’s work (Acts 1:1-2). The Christian evangelists were only harvesting the wheat that God had already prepared. Acts 13:48 is a strong statement of predestination: those whom God had previously appointed to eternal life believed the gospel (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:11).
"Once again the human responsibility of believing is shown to coincide exactly with what God in his sovereignty had planned." [Note: Kent, p. 114.]
Good news spreads fast, and the good news of the gospel spread through that entire region.
"This spreading of the word, along with the apostles’ own outreach to the cities named in chapters 13 and 14, probably led to the agitation of the so-called Judaizers that resulted in the problem Paul dealt with in Galatians." [Note: Longenecker, p. 430.]
The Jews secured Paul and Barnabas’ explusion from their district through influential local residents who brought persecution on the missionaries. Some of these people were devout women, evidently God-fearers whom the unbelieving Jews turned against Paul and Barnabas (cf. Acts 10:2).
". . . synagogue worship attracted many Gentile women as adherents of Judaism; in Asia Minor wealthy matrons exercised much more influence than was the case in most other parts of the Empire." [Note: Neil, p. 161.]
Shaking the dust off one’s feet was a graphic way that Jews illustrated separation from unbelievers (cf. Matthew 10:14; Luke 9:5; Luke 10:11). Iconium (modern Konia) stood about 90 miles to the southeast of Antioch, also in Phrygian Galatia. Paul and Barnabas undoubtedly travelled the southeast branch of the Via Sebaste to arrive there. Another branch of this major road went from Antioch to Comana, about 120 miles to the north.
The identity of the "disciples" in Acts 13:52 is not clear. They could be Paul and Barnabas or the new converts in Antioch. I tend to think the word refers to both groups. Fullness of joy and fullness of the Holy Spirit marked these disciples.
It is interesting that two references to joy (Acts 13:48; Acts 13:52) bracket the one mention of persecution in this passage (Acts 13:50) suggesting that the missionaries’ joy overrode the discomforts of persecution (cf. Acts 16:24-25).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent